Despite new system, CSU rushing attack thriving through four games

Keegan Pope

CSU running back Jasen Oden Jr. celebrates a touchdown during the Rams' loss to Colorado earlier this season.
CSU running back Jasen Oden Jr. celebrates a touchdown during the Rams’ loss to Colorado earlier this season. (Abbie Parr/Collegian)

In his more than a dozen years at the University of Georgia, Mike Bobo’s offenses were known for their physical, bruising style that eventually wore defenses down in the fourth quarter.

His first team at Colorado State has adopted the same mentality just four games into his inaugural season as head coach. Through the first third of the season, CSU has run for at least 170 yards in each game, including two games with 200-plus rushing yards. 

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With a brand-new offense featuring a first-year quarterback, CSU has relied heavily on running backs Jasen Oden Jr. and Dalyn Dawkins, running the ball more than 40 times per game in three of the first four games. In those first four weeks, CSU has shifted around four members of its offensive line and lost its second-leading rusher from last season when Treyous Jarrells quit the team last Tuesday. Despite all of the changes, Bobo has been pleasantly surprised with the progress of the team’s running game.

“I believe our line is doing a great job, our backs are running hard and we’re doing a great job of getting in the right look as far as the run game,” Bobo said. “We haven’t had a lot of wasted plays, and that’s really big for us because we’re running (for) almost 200 yards a game, and we don’t have a running quarterback. We’re running the fly sweeps and stuff, we’re a little bit conventional in the run game, and the way we’re doing is a credit to our kids for buying in and understanding how we attack a defense and why.”

With the early season growing pains of installing a new system and starting a new quarterback, having a running attack that can chew up clock has been instrumental for CSU’s offense. Against the Roadrunners, Oden Jr. had a career highs in both carries (30) and yards (143), while freshman Izzy Matthews saw his first meaningful action of the year, carrying the ball 13 times to spell Oden Jr.There was no better example of that than Saturday night’s win, in which the Rams ran the final 5:28 off the clock, throwing just once on the final drive. Oden Jr., Matthews and quarterback Nick Stevens combined to rush eight times for 55 yards, including a 28-yarder from Oden on a critical third-and-3. 

According to Stevens, that took the pressure off of him to move the ball on the final drive, and ultimately allowed the Rams to keep the ball away from the high-powered UTSA offense. 

“I think that was the key in our win on Saturday,” Stevens said. “I think we had more than five minutes on that last drive that we needed to burn, and if we weren’t able to run the ball there might have been a couple of incompletions that stopped the ball, and we might have had to give them the ball back. I think especially in the late part of games that’s going to be huge for us. Just being able to move the ball will put us in a better position on second and third down.” 

Collegian Senior Sports Reporter Keegan Pope can be reached at kpope@collegian.com and on Twitter @ByKeeganPope.